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Displaying all posts tagged "Young people".
Lunchtime conversations about faith and science
February 6, 2014 | Lori Wilson
Lunchtime conversations about faith and science
Late last year a high school teacher approached TCF with an idea: he wanted to host a lunch-time forum with his students about the interplay of faith and science. After a conversation with our president, he began to make plans, and wrote recently to tell us about their first gathering: a dozen high school students gave up their lunch break to talk with their science teacher about creation and evolution. Stepping back from some of the more standard (and heated) starting points of this particular conversation, he introduced the notion of “unexamined presuppositions”: what are the things we believe to be true before we even begin to make a scientific claim? This kind of thoughtful approach gives students the tools to engage potentially difficult issues with patience and confidence. Shortly after the teacher announced this gathering, he began to receive requests from other students to join the lunchtime conversations. So many young people crave a safe space in which to ask questions about issues that matter deeply to them! Part of TCF’s founding vision was to help young people move from fear of these controversies to a sense of freedom for exploring God’s world. We’re not at all surprised that this friend of TCF has found a ready and anxious audience, and we’re deeply grateful for the time and energy he’s investing to create a safe space for his students to ask difficult questions.  
Geology, Darwinism, and a New Vocabulary
December 16, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Geology, Darwinism, and a New Vocabulary
At one of our TCF Discovery Events this fall, I was introduced to a biology teacher from a local public high school. This past summer, he traveled with his geologist son to investigate the oldest rock in the world, considered to be billions of years old. Unlike his son, this teacher is uncertain about the age of the earth, but inclined to espouse a young earth view; as a result, he found himself in wonderful yet sometimes strained conversation with his son. He is confident in his son’s faith and confident in his own. They have a strong relationship, but they have lacked a framework for talking about their differences. After hearing about The Colossian Forum, he felt like he had been given the gift of a new vocabulary for exploring Christian faith. He now had a way to explain why the tensions he had experienced with his son didn’t threaten their relationship or their faith, but served as an opportunity to learn to love God and one another more deeply. Excited by this possibility, not only for his son but for his students as well, he asked me to consult with him on how he might run “Colossian Forums” with his students during his lunch hour. Many of his students share a young earth creation perspective, but because he teaches in a public school setting, he finds teaching about evolution and Darwinism to be a particular challenge. I invited him to join me for a conversation about his experience with teaching the Bible in a non-Christian setting, and we discussed a number of ways in which Christians might be able to have this conversation in unique ways, since we confess that “all things hold together in Christ.” I shared a draft of an upcoming publication that outlines some TCF methods for engaging divisive issues while deepening our Christian virtues, as well as a number of web resources and forum examples to support his work. He left our meeting exhilarated and empowered to run the kind of conversations we have been inviting people to join. We look forward to staying in touch with him to hear how these conversations unfold and to support him in prayer.  
Evangelicalism and Higher Education: New Topic at RespectfulConversation.net
November 6, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Evangelicalism and Higher Education: New Topic at RespectfulConversation.net
Around TCF, we devote quite a lot of attention to the ways in which we can develop an “unanxious presence.” By this we mean simply the ability to live faithfully, trusting in God’s goodness and redemption. This does not mean that we ignore our worries or stifle our fears—but that we entrust these to God in such a way that we can live in freedom and peace in their very midst. This theme surfaces repeatedly in RespectfulConversation.net’s topic for November: “Evangelicalism and Higher Education.” Professors, administrators, and church leaders write about ways in which they are working to sort out a healthy relationship between robust evangelical faith and the challenges of rigorous academic pursuit. In the comments section of Sarah Ruden’s post, she describes the capacity of Christian students to resist the temptation of academic hubris, instead humbly acknowledging their human limitations: [A] great strength in Evangelical institutions seems to be a student attitude along the lines of “I'm just a person, but God is God; so it doesn't shatter me to admit when I'm wrong or need help.” As these students acknowledge their dependence on God, they are freed up to take risks and admit their mistakes—their egos aren’t tied up in the obligation to get everything right. Ruden explains that in her experience at secular institutions, her students are less likely to exhibit this sort of “unanxious presence,” as they lack the robust foundation provided by a vibrant—and humble—faith. On the administrative side, John Hawthorne provides a striking example of “unanxiousness” as well. Whereas the questions and challenges of young students can often be perceived as threats, he chooses to interpret these instead as gifts to the institution: Christian universities need postmodern students because they will help us address the central questions these students have. This is not to provide them with easy answers but to enable them to engage the questions with the complexity the world sees. This means that Christian universities will have to wrestle with all of the difficult questions the broader society is wrestling with, maybe even wrestling harder and earlier than the rest of culture. In a sense, Hawthorne explains, evangelical schools are equipped with the resources to lead our society in working through difficult cultural issues. And he suggests that among the key assets are students themselves: thoughtful, honest, and question-asking young people who can encourage their institutions to fearlessly engage academic and cultural challenges. It takes remarkable “unanxiousness” on the part of an administrator to invite students into such a role! As we at TCF work to foster a sense of “unanxious presence,” we are grateful for these brothers and sisters who willingly engage difficult issues with humility and grace. Their embodied “unanxious presence” transforms potential conflicts into striking opportunities for the church and academy to pursue the Truth together.
A New Kind of Conversation: From Culture Wars to Hospitality
July 18, 2013 | Lori Wilson
A New Kind of Conversation: From Culture Wars to Hospitality
TCF recently contributed to the program of the annual national conference of the Association for Christians in Student Development (ACSD). TCF Director of Operations Brian Cole offered a workshop introducing our approach to difficult conversations, tailoring it to the needs of higher education institutions. The workshop was structured as an interactive gathering for a small group, and included time and space for dialogue and yes, even disagreement. Christian colleges and universities face their share of controversial conversations, with the additional (if unofficial) mandate to help stem the tide of young people leaving the church. As TCF cares deeply about the concerns of these (former) Christians – and the ugly controversies that contribute to their rejection of faith – we have committed to ongoing partnership with Christian educational institutions. The workshop, therefore, was developed in response to some of the concerns and fears we hear from our partners, bringing to bear the confidence we hold, that “in Christ, all things hold together.” During the course of the workshop, one participant expressed concern over the risks of “giving voice” to heresy. An approach that allows any conversation partner a place at the table, as it were, might unintentionally endorse heretical ideas. Another participant, however, responded with the concern that a label of “heresy” runs the risk of shutting down a valuable conversation, thereby alienating a brother or sister in Christ. Though this disagreement had not formed part of the “script” of the workshop, it effectively illustrated the vast number of issues on which we as Christians might disagree.  Furthermore, the way in which the two participants pursued understanding – while maintaining their disagreement – demonstrated the hope we can hold out for hospitable dialogue. As TCF continues to partner with educational institutions, we hope to foster more conversations like this one. Disagreements may abound, but we trust that God’s goodness will allow us to deepen faith and build friendships in the midst of it all.
Celebrate the Challenges: a guest post
April 18, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Celebrate the Challenges: a guest post
Anyone who works with traditional undergraduate college students is well aware that they are on a transitional journey as emerging adults. As a biology faculty member at a Christian liberal arts university, I view my role in this process as not only a guide in their understanding of biological concepts but also a provider of resources and learning opportunities that develop them holistically. In my classes, I intentionally expose my students to some of the challenging cultural concerns for Christian believers within the context of science and faith. These relevant issues provide them with rich opportunities to examine, evaluate, and reflect on faithful Christian perspectives that may differ from their own; they also hold the potential to augment my students’ spiritual formation process. As we engage in these issues as fellow believers in Christ, I remind them of the importance of recognizing that since “Christ holds all thing together” (Colossian 1:16-17), there is ultimately nothing to fear in searching for truth wherever it may be found. In my attempt to fulfill my courses’ learning outcomes for both critical thinking and faith/learning integration, I search for resources from Christian organizations who model a reconciliatory approach to the conflicts within science, faith, and culture. While conducting a web search for appropriate resources, I discovered The Colossian Forum.  I was not familiar with this particular organization but was intrigued by particular phrases on their homepage such as liberating truth, a safe place for the riskiest questions, and a new approach to a new kind of conversation. In reviewing some of the material available online, I first read their Manifesto which described their aim to equip the church to engage culture in a way that does not fragment the body of Christ. I also discovered that two Christian biologists, Todd Wood and Dennis Venema, had each written an essay at the request of The Colossian Forum. I was intrigued because of my awareness that these two individuals approached their specialty area of genomics from differing Christian perspectives.  Both essays expressed a refreshingly gracious rather than argumentative tone and modeled postures of humility, hope, and receptive listening. The intentionality of both these individuals to model Christ-like virtues in this context was inspirational. I decided to assign all three of these readings as the last “integration” assignment for the semester and asked my students to summarize, evaluate, and reflect on the content. Since this particular assignment would serve as the pinnacle of our integrative learning together over the course of the semester, I specifically asked them to reflect on 1) the future orientation of the church in its approach to science and faith and 2) the impact of this biology course on their Christian faith. In their reflections on the future orientation of the church, the responses were mixed. Some of my students described a newfound hope that the disharmony over science and faith issues would fade: I hope that churches will begin to have organized meetings where this topic is discussed in an open way and differing perspectives are accepted. Some students were uncertain: Unless there is a new generation of theologians and pastors that step up into leadership and address these issues, the church will remain the same. Still others expressed a pessimistic outlook: I believe the evangelical church will eventually split. As we can see now, it is impossible to get people to think as one. Overall, their thinking was unified in the desire that future generations of believers will nurture the unity that is found in Christ. In reflecting on the influence of this course on their faith, the overwhelming majority of them described a positive effect.  One student commented that …my faith has been strengthened greatly by this class because I have realized that no matter what science uncovers about how God brought about life, all truth is God's truth and because of that fact I can engage in scientific learning without fears. Seeming conflicts are only a misinterpretation of either the general revelation from God that science provides or the special revelation that God gave us in the Bible. I take comfort in the fact that God works in ways which are different than ours, and which we may not be able to comprehend. Another student summarized her thoughts by stating: After being in this class, I think that the most significant point I’ll be taking away is also the most comforting – that science and faith are not in conflict. It was what I’d always subconsciously known, but never really hoped to believe. This makes me feel loved by a very great God, who I can see revealing himself in a way that goes far beyond the box to which I had confined him. Education is intended to be transformative, and these comments illustrate why I consider it essential for my students to be exposed to not only the challenging questions for the Christian faith being raised by science in our world today, but also to this posture of reconciliation based on the unity amongst believers in Christ, who is Truth.  In my experience, most Christian college students today are seeking a new way forward in these often contentious conversations that come at the intersection of science, faith, and culture.  As a holistic educator, I celebrate these challenges as opportunities for faith development in my students’ journeys to an adulthood in which they will love God and serve others.   Mrs. Jane Beers is Assistant Professor of Biology at John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

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